Friday, June 27, 2008

Our Little Bible Trivia Star!

While I was picking up the kids from their last day of Vacation Bible School (VBS), Jimmer's group leader said she noticed that Kathleen (who was in a different group) was able to answer all of the bible trivia questions one day during the large group (200+ kids) session at camp...even the really tough ones.

I had heard from a couple of different people that Kathleen ended up answering a number of questions that nobody else could. Apparently, they asked how she new so much about the bible, and she just answered, "My dad reads a lot to us."

Jimmer's leader asked what bible books we read, and I said that (besides our Kid's Bible Challenge game) I was certain most of their trivia knowledge came from reading the 100+ Arch Books we have. Arch Books are short books ($1.99 each) that tell each bible story IN VERSE! My mom got the kids the whole set a few Christmases ago, and Joe has not stopped reading them to the kids. I've lost count of how many of these books we've given to other children. I just thought I'd post a link (click here) for these books for anyone else who'd like to check them out.

Joe's family grew up reading the vintage version, but they've now been redone and are still wonderful reads. Some of Kathleen's favorites are: The Seeds That Grew and Grew, Jailhouse Rock, and The Shepherd's Christmas.

With all these books, you can basically read through the bible in chronological order, or by the particular categories (Easter, Christmas, Miracles, Old Testament, New Testament, etc.). Good stuff!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More than a gift!!!

Since the kids are at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our parish every morning this week, I've felt what it's like to have the luxury of a bit of time to myself! I've been able to clean, organize, blah, blah, blah in peace and quiet!! Don't worry, I won't post any of my domestic accomplishments! I haven't taken my camera to VBS either, so I don't really have any appropriate pictures to post.

However, just this morning I received one extraordinary gift. A neighbor and fellow parishioner (I'll call her Ms. Kindheart) brought over a box, a bag and a case.

Ms. Kindheart's grand nieces take violin lessons, and I called her last month when I needed information on our neighbor violin teacher. After church last weekend, she asked if the kids had started lessons yet. I said they had and that I hadn't realized that I would need to learn to play and be their main coach/teacher/enforcer...but that I've always wanted to play violin, so it was actually an unexpected benefit.

Ms. Kindheart said that she had a couple of violins and that she wanted to give one of them away. So, she said that she'd like to give one to me. I got tears in my eyes at the thought of her generosity, but I still had no idea how generous she was...until she came over to our house this morning (while the kids were at VBS).

I secretly wanted a violin, but after forking out a goodly chunk of $$ to purchase 4 other violins, lessons, books, I couldn't justify buying one for myself. Afterall, I wasn't taking lessons!

When Ms. Kindheart showed up, she brought a box of violin supplies, a bag of books and videos of music and about playing violin, and a case with a beautiful violin. She said that she was just passing off some things she needed to get rid of! After she took out the violin and we fiddled around with it =), she said that I should look inside of the violin where the maker and date are printed. SHE JUST GAVE ME A VIOLIN THAT WAS HANDMADE IN 1910! I couldn't believe it! It looks and sounds beautiful! She even got a new shoulder strap and bow...and a tuner to give to me.

I felt like I just won the lottery or something. Well, my situation was much more meaningful though, because it was purposefully given by a very generous and kind-hearted acquaintance.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Little Flowers Camp--Day 5

Last day of camp. We started out bowling in the morning with all the girls and their siblings. Here's Mary Kate getting her game on!
As a bit of a surprise, one of our priests (Fr. Brion) showed up to join the fun!
After bowling we headed to church, and Fr. Brion said a special Mass in the chapel for our group. The girls in the Mass class planned and prepared the celebration.
I just thought this Little Flower, one of the littlest at 6 years old, was so darned cute up there reading...standing on a step stool!
After Mass we had lunch served by a Little Flower mom...and HER mom!
Instead of Fr. Brion, I think I'll refer to him as Fr. Jungle Gym from now on!
To end the week, I called up each of the girls and presented them with their lapbooks--my work of mercy (!) for the girls.
The cover...
The inside...All the little books on the inside have the class title and contain all the instructions, notes, and recipes from each class. I also mounted a 5x7" group photo in a plastic sleeve on the back. The minibooks are held in the lapbook with Velcro dots.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Little Flowers Camp--Day 4

Today, it was back to Melissa's (she's my hero too!) house for the girls to finish up all their classes and projects. I even learned to use all the jewelry-making tools to help Mary Kate make this cute bracelet.
Mary Kate with her soon-to-be mini Mary altar. In her crafts class, she also learned more about sacramentals.
Kathleen made this nifty beginning sewer's project, an apron made out of a wash cloth and a hand towel. She learned how to gather and use the sewing machine. I'm afraid her days of making hand-stitched felt clothing for her stuffed animals may be numbered! She also made a nice guardian angel pillow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Little Flowers Camp--Day 3

Camping was the theme of the day. Dr. Leary (the other Little Flowers coordinator's husband) led some of the girls' scouting brothers in teaching all about camping basics. See Kathleen sitting down eating her dutch oven cherry cobbler? I wasn't expecting a real camp fire in their back yard...with a bunch of little girls running all over the place. Brave men! Prayers were answered and nobody got hurt!
Our girls were fired up about learning about camp cooking, camping tools/supplies, back packing...(Here's one of the Little Flowers...with a pack that's a bit too big.)...hiking, pitching tents, knife safety, and first aid. (Mary Kate learned to use her bandana as a sling.) It was about 100 degrees outside, and nobody was complaining--even when they felt the heat of the fire adding to the outside temps. What troopers!
There must be something with men only wanting to cook outdoors. These guys wouldn't even do the dirty dishes in the house. Oh no...only the garden hose would do!

Little Flowers Camp--Day 2

The girls had another fun-filled afternoon with the Little Flowers at camp. They got to make Rosary bracelets--all 5 decades! Mary Kate made a pink one, and Kathleen made 2--a pink and black. She kept the black and donated the pink one to our parish festival store.
They also got in the kitchen again. Kathleen cooked a meal (pasta bake and garlic bread)...for our family this time.
Mary Kate baked some more goodies for our Final Lunch (not to be confused with the Last Supper!) after Mass this Friday. She also got to make and bring home another dessert, cookie bars, for us to enjoy!
The whole group of 20 Little Flowers campers...

Our host, Melissa, of our camp this year has been extremely generous with her home and everything in it. She has workers remodeling her upstairs bathrooms while she has allowed 20 girls and their mothers the run of the rest of the house (minus the back staircase functioning as the construction entrance) and has never batted an eye--even when a slight lemonade spill occurred on her back patio! What a mom. What a woman!

Little Flowers Camp--Day 1

We had Little Flowers camp all afternoon yesterday. The boys played with other boy siblings while the girls cooked, baked, crafted, decorated cakes, sewed...

Mary Kate starting in her craft class.

Kathleen decorating her cake.

After the cooking class was finished, we brought the meal over to our priests at the rectory. (No picture. Darn!) Nine of the girls cooked arroz con pollo and charro beans. Another group of 10 girls baked corn bread and peach cobbler. The girls were excited to deliver the food to our priests' rectory. They had never seen where Fr. Danny and Fr. Brion live and thought it was great to be able to go through their house, into their kitchen, look in their back yard...envisioning what our priests do when they're not at church!

After cooking and baking all afternoon and delivering meals to two different rectories, all of us camp moms laughed when we realized what we would be feeding our own families for dinner. A couple of moms said they were ordering pizza. Ironic, no? We had scrambled eggs (got home at 6:45pm, Joe was gone [on a church tour with two other parish building committee members], I was tired.)...oh yes, and the girls' decorated cakes for dessert!

Okay...last picture of Bilbo's tail!

I didn't figure I'd be posting our tadpole updates so much on consecutive days, but we're just following nature...and nature has sped up for Bilbo. Less than 24 hours ago, Bilbo still had a short tail. Now this is what he looks like this morning. I thought we'd have a couple of more weeks with this little guy after his arms popped out, but I think it's about time we let him go.

We fetched him from nature on April 22 (Earth Day).

In the stream before we netted him. (He's the black critter on the rock.)
First day in his new home.
Less than 2 months later he has fully transformed himself. I guess the next post should be about the kids releasing him back to nature. We'll see if they want to let him go sometime this week. =(

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bilbo Frogger

Okay, I'm continually amazed by this little critter in our tank. In a matter of 24 hours, he has made some dramatic changes...once again! The last picture of him was right after his arms came out. The next morning, instead of a tadpole with arms and legs, he completely looked like a frog with a little tail. He was perched up on a rock breathing AIR now. Somehow, his tail lost its "fin" look and just looks like a small tail. Here he is in all his new frogger glory.
Compare it to a picture taken less than 24 hours prior to the one above when he was still swimming and staying underwater.

This morning, his tail looks really tiny. Until just a minute ago, I hadn't been able to get a good picture of our shy frogger because whenever he sees movement in the room he flails around the tank until he wedges himself under one of the rocks. First is a picture of him from yesterday afternoon. See the long tail?The next picture is from just a minute ago (8am-ish). Check out the much shorter tail!

Nature is great!

I'm a bit worried about our little frogger. It seems like he's not eating anything. I've changed his food a bit and have added some blood worms (yuck!). I hope he's getting what he needs because I think he's too little for even the smallest crickets.

Okay, gotta get ready for this week's Little Flowers camp we're putting on for 20+ girls. But first, we've gotta do another English lesson. Nope, we still haven't quite finished school yet...even though we're pretty close. (Sigh!)

We're not going to have much break from school this summer. We need to get going on our next year since we've just started planning on a big fun trip this fall and will miss school during that time. After visiting my dad in Washington State, we're going somewhere we've never been...and Grammy and Grampy may be joining us!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

We realize that most people probably think they have the best dad in the world, but our kids are certain that THEIRS is THE most bestest EVER! They served Dad breakfast in bed today and presented him with all their homemade cards--always a highlight of our family celebrations. Kathleen even made up a little poem for him. Here it is:

I think we know a recipe that no one else has known.
The greatest dad needs some resting so he feels good here...and soon!
Oh, one more thing--thank you for the things we've done.
You know it has been fun!

While we let Dad continue to relax at home, I brought the kids to the pool. Even though we've had many (I've lost count) days that were 100 degrees and above already this year, it is still nice and cool at the pool early in the morning--say, around 7:30 or 8:00am! That is, if you're either in the shade or wet...or both!

Since there wasn't a cloud in the sky to give us any respite from the sun, we also figured it would be a good day avoid the great outdoors some of the day, so we went to the history museum and saw an IMAX show on extreme sports! In this picture, the kids are at the bottom of the star in front of the museum.
Although I'm sure there are lots of great dads out there, our kids know that they have the best there is! AND he's just as good a husband as he is a father!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bilbo TadFrog, nature's own transformer

We've decided to name our tadfrog Bilbo. It just seems to suit him. He had to have a name by now--especially today with such a dramatic day for celebration. He got his arms! Just last night they were stuck inside his little chubby torso, then out they popped (deflating his chest a bit, but I won't tell him!). The only hint of arms we had was a little bulge on one side looking like an elbow. They popped out of a hole and are fully functioning already. Take a look at our transformed tadfrog, Bilbo!

The interesting part about the arms is that unlike the back legs, they just seemed to magically appear. We first noticed the back legs a few weeks ago when they were so small they looked like they could've been something else that comes out at that end (!), and they were completely lifeless just floating and dragging along until a last week when we noticed they were more muscular and functional.

Our puzzled little guy looks a bit funny hop-swimming around trying to learn to use his arms and legs. We switched him back to the big tank and put a large rock in it for him to climb on, but he still seems to prefer his little plant! Now all we have left is to watch his tail disappear. Oh yes, a menu change. Bugs! Maybe I'll go to the pet shop and find something already caught and dried up!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We were just going to talk with her...

The kids love the violin. They've been talking about wanting to play for quite some time (even before we saw this Kansas youth string orchestra--5th through 12th grade--in Estes Park a couple of weeks ago), so I set up a meeting with the Suzuki violin teacher just 5 houses away from us. Joe stopped home yesterday as we were all heading down to our meeting with her, and I said, "We're just going to talk with her today. I think her schedule is full, so we'll probably have to wait to start and slowly get them into lessons one at a time." So on we went.

After meeting with the teacher, feeding her bird Cheez-Its, and playing with her two kittens, all four of the kids were fitted with violins, and we returned home with one 1/16-sized, one 1/8-sized, one 1/4-sized violins, and two bows. I didn't even have a check book with me, but she had us take them so we could get them "checked over" by a shop before all of the children start lessons next Tuesday!

All the kids spent time "fiddling" with the violins yesterday. The first thing Jimmer said when he woke up this morning was not the expected, "Mom, can we go to the pool this morning?", but, "Mom, can I play my violin?"

Here he is...

Here's Mary Kate (who also had just rolled out of bed) playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star she sounded out.

Needless to say, next Tuesday can't come soon enough for them.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Lone TadFrog

Unfortunately, our tadpole sitters (wonderfully generous neighbors) had to witness the death of 5 out of our 6 tadpoles--the first day we left on our roadie! After I cleaned the tank and walked it over to their house before we left town, I noticed some white flaky stuff floating around the water that I had never seen before and is still baffling me. This was sure to be what the poor tadpoles ingested and caused them to meet their demise later that day--just a little over a month after we "saved" them from their natural habitat.

Our neighbors called so we could inform the kids before we came back to pick them up (in case the kids may be distraught in some way). After we told the kids about the other tadpoles dying, they were pretty matter-of-fact about it when they told their cousins, and were glad we still had one left. After we got back, Jimmer asked what our neighbors did with the other tadpoles. I told him I wasn't sure...but I'm relieved he didn't outright ask our neighbor when we went to pick up the aquarium! FLUSH!

On a lighter note, we still have one very hearty tadpole left, and he's getting his legs in back. See?
We're trying to think of an appropriate name for him now that he's been through some tough times and is the lone survivor of our tadfrogs. This one was the smallest one of the bunch, is quite mellow compared to the other rambunctious critters he used to float with, and he's usually found hiding at the bottom of the tank under our little aquarium plant.

Check out how well his legs are formed in this picture. At first the legs were so small and just floated along with the rest of the body seemingly lifeless. Now our little tadfrog uses them to push himself along the tank. Doesn't he look he's getting ready to clap and dance?!

We thought of naming him Bilbo (for Bilbo Baggins, the main character in The Hobbit) since hobbits don't usually like too much adventure. Then we thought of Winnie (the Pooh) since this tadpole seems pretty gentle and soft spoken. There's gotta be an Aesop's fable about a mellow, patient, non-greedy type like this, right? We haven't given him a name quite yet as I'm not sure that any of these names fit him fully. Any suggestions out there?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Our Little Flowers

Last night was our annual awards ceremony for the Little Flowers Girls' Club. Our girls felt very special as they received their patches, service awards, and works of mercy pins. Here is a photo of the whole group. Kathleen is the first one on the left, and Mary Kate is the sixth one from the left.
Here's the group in our church Rosary Garden. Kathleen and Mary Kate are on the very right.

Dad and the boys having dinner at the event.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On the Road Again: ending our tour

On our way home after we passed all of the snow-capped mountains, we enjoyed the many different sites and features of West Texas. I've often joked about the smells around the general Lubbock area (+/- 100 miles in any direction).

Smells north of Lubbock.
We passed by about a 1/2 mile of penned and packed-in cattle along the way. NOTE: If you come across this many cattle in one place, make sure you have the air on recirculate BEFORE the aromas have a chance to enter your vehicle!

Smells south of Lubbock--oil.We passed by many of these oil rigs. The field this one is standing in is probably a newly planted cotton crop. We also passed by many co-op cotton gins.

West Texas scenery--massive wind farms. Atop mesas...
...and in fields. Thousands of these wind turbines are "planted" for miles and miles, so you can't see the beginning or end of them.
To better grasp the idea of how large the turbines are, check out the barn in this picture. The turbines are 328 feet tall. I know I'm getting very obviously nerdy here, but you can click here see how they compare in size to a Boeing 747.
This broken blade will remind you why you don't see these wind farms closer to town. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near these things if one of the blades broke or flew off!
Here's the Smiling Bridge in (yes, it's true) Happy, TX. Joe calls it Smiling Bridge since it is notoriously known for its bowing precast concrete beams that turn up at the ends--like a smile! Okay, you've gotta look pretty closely. As you can imagine, this is NOT a good thing! Just remember, you really don't want a bridge to smile at you! Frowns (or arches), in this case, are better. Even with an untrained eye, I noticed it right away. This picture really doesn't show how obvious the beam is sagging.

Hmmm...I think I better check deep into my pocket protector-covered shirt pocket to find something to measure my nerd factor here! I'm wondering why I bothered to post this picture. I guess to show what life is like being married to a structural engineer. Stopping on the side of a road to take a picture of a very plain bridge is not unusual for us! Knocking on most walls and columns of ANY kind of structure is also fairly common in our family--especially if there are any visible cracks!

Just to clarify, Joe says the bridge is structurally sound and is being all who live in Happy, TX can stay happy, happy, happy!

Here's a comforting sign that welcomed us as we stopped for a break on our ride home! Can you read it? It says, "WARNING: Watch for Snakes".
The sign reminded me of Mikey getting his first snake bite earlier this year! See the bite marks on his hand?
Ahhh, now we're home again. Wait! What did that thermometer say? Near 100 degrees?